Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Police bust Claremont heroin dealers

According to a CPD news release from yesterday evening, 2 residents were arrested for drug possession and sales. On Monday evening, an anonymous citizen called police to report what they thought were subjects in a parked car smoking narcotics on the 400 block of Norwestern Drive. Police responded and found 3 subjects related to the vehicle.

Cameron Thompson, a 19-year-old Claremont resident, was found to be in possession of heroin and was arrested. Shayne Gillispie, 20-year-old Claremont resident, was arrested and taken to
Pomona Valley Hospital based on the officer’s belief that Gillispie had swallowed packaged heroin at the time of the initial contact. While at the hospital, Gillispie regurgitated approximately 15 balloons of heroin. A third subject was released at the scene.

A search warrant was served at Gillispie’s residence where additional heroin and other evidence were located. A search was also conducted at Thompson’s residence where additional evidence including bindles of cocaine were located. Thompson is currently being held at Claremont PD jail for possession of cocaine and possession of heroin; bail is $10,000. Gillispie is being held at Claremont PD jail for possession of heroin for sale; bail is $30,000. They are scheduled for arraignment at Pomona Court on December 30, 2009.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dutch Elm on Indian Hill to be removed

One of Claremont's oldest and most revered trees will have to be removed after a contractor cut through many of its roots.

Located on the southeast corner of Indian Hill Boulevard and 10th Street, the Dutch Elm tree has been providing shady cover for travelers on Indian Hill for over 100 years.

On Monday morning, an independent contractor of the city was working on the installation of a traffic signal at Indian Hill and 10th Street when he sliced through several major roots of the elm tree.

According to a city news release, "the root cutting was done without notification or authorization from the City. The policy of the City is to never grant permission to cut roots over 2 inches in diameter without proper inspection and approval from a licensed arborist."

The Dutch Elm trees located along Indian Hill Boulevard are the last of their species west of the Mississippi River.

The city contracted 4 independent arborists to assess the damage. They found that the 20 percent of the roots were damaged beyond repair and the stability of the tree has been compromised.

Construction on the installation of the signal has been halted until further notice by the City. According to Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos, the city will be seeking compensation from the contractor.

Upon hearing the news, Mayor Pro Tem Linda Elderkin went to see the tree one last time this evening before it was removed.

"I am just very sad about this," Elderkin said. "I am really devastated. As will everyone in this neighborhood be. There is really no way to compensate for the loss of a tree like this."

The tree will be removed tomorrow morning beginning at 9 a.m.

Update on CST student Walt Staton

Claremont School of Theology student Walt Staton will not be spending time in jail. At a hearing on Monday in Arizona, Staton agreed with a federal judge that he would in fact complete his 300 hours of community service.

As covered in the Wednesday, December 16 edition of the COURIER, Staton was cited by federal authorities for "premeditated littering" last year. Working with the humanitarian organization No More Deaths, Staton would leave fresh jugs of water for people traversing the US/Mexico border in Arizona.

Staton was originally assigned to complete 300 hours of service involving picking up litter on public land. He complained that there aren't many organizations doing trash pickup near Claremont. He would need to travel some distances to get to beaches and big cities, costing him even more times and gas money.

To avoid spending 25 days in jail, Staton and the judge agreed that he could do his community service in Claremont or surrounding cities.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Claremont Museum of Art will close at year's end

Sad news from the Claremont Museum of Art. The Board of Directors last night voted to discontinue operation of the museum and place the permanent collection in a secure storage facility.

In October, the Claremont Museum of Art nearly shut down but was able to secure roughly $30,000 from the city to stay open throughout 2009. Museum officials argued to the city council that the extra time will give them a chance to secure more donations so it could remain open. They were hoping to raise about $213,000 for operating expenses for 2010.

Museum volunteers had a telephone campaign and were able to secure $26,255 in pledges. But the money would only keep the museum open for about 6 weeks.

"Without any immediate prospects for additional donations, we don't see any way to continue operation in The Packing House location. Therefore we will not collect the pledges," according to a Museum news release.

Museum officials say they will continue to work on rejuvenating the museum within the next few years "as the economy improves." Your last chance to visit the museum will be on December 26 and 27 from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

I will have more details to follow in an upcoming edition of the COURIER.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter bloom

Thanks to reader Andrea Eldridge for sending in this photo of a holiday Yucca. Eldridge took the photo while hiking at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 14 of the one and only blooming Yucca on the Wilderness Trail. According to Eldridge, the Yucca normally bloom in late summer here. "Nature's holiday anomaly," she said.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Posting comments

After getting a bunch of spam comments on my posts, I've made some settings changes to how comments will be posted. The good news is it will be much easier for people to share their thoughts and post comments.

To post a comment, simply click on the "Comments" link below the post. Type what you want to say and click on the menu by "Comment as." In the drop down menu by "Name/URL," you can choose to type in your name (preferable), your URL or click on "Anonymous." Hit "Post Comment" and you're done!

The comment won't publish right away. I'll received an email notifying me that I've got a comment to review. As long as they're not spam or have vulgar/slanderous language, I will post all comments. I will not edit any comments.

So feel free to share your thoughts. The COURIER City Beat is meant as a forum for COURIER readers and I want to hear what you have to say.

School Board votes for second time against nurse Cindy Estep-Tonan

At last night's Board of Education meeting, the CUSD Board voted to bring charges against Estep-Tonan to seek her termination. Board member Steven Llanusa was the lone voice of opposition on the Board, while Beth Bingham did not vote, citing a conflict of interest because she presided over Estep-Tonan's wedding.

In his first vote as a Board Member, Jeff Stark voted against the longtime school nurse along with Mary Caenepeel and Hilary LaConte. Stark was sworn in shortly before the closed session report on Estep-Tonan.

According to an article for tomorrow's paper written by my colleague Landus Rigsby, Estep-Tonan was "shocked" over Stark's vote. The issue of her employment status first came Before the board at the November 19 meeting when Stark was still sitting in the audience.

“I'm shocked and I don't know how Jeff Stark could have voted if he just came onto the board,” Ms. Estep-Tonan said. “They've rushed through this and I guess this is what they do to people they don't like. Justice will be served though.”

For a full report, be sure to read Saturday's issue of the COURIER.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Board to re-vote on Cindy Estep-Tonan's job

More developments are unfolding in the case of Cindy Estep-Tonan, the longtime nurse for the Claremont Unified School District who was recently let go by the district.

According to Linda Hunt from the Superintendent's Office, who spoke with my colleague Landus Rigsby, the Board of Education will take a re-vote on Estep-Tonan's employment status on Thursday night at the Board Meeting. For more details on the whys and hows, we'll have a full story in Saturday's paper.

The School District has apparently changed the format of their Board meeting agendas after receiving some criticism from the public. During the last meeting, many people arriving at 7 p.m. wanted to speak on behalf of Estep-Tonan, but the Board had already voted earlier during closed session.

While the lack of clarity on the agenda certainly didn't help, it is standard protocol for public comment on closed session items to take place before the closed session.

Here's page one of the most recent agenda with the new format. Below that is page one of the November 19 Board meeting. It's nice to see that the School District is willing to make timely adjustments in reation to concerns brought forth by the public. Hopefully, it will help avoid any potential confusion in the future.

Those interested in commenting on Estep-Tonan at Thursday night's meeting should arrive by 6 p.m.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Before he was mayor

This young Claremonter looks ahead to a bright future. Do you recognize this Webb School freshman? Photo was pulled from the COURIER archives.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Bulletin's botched article

The Claremont COURIER has set up its own Youtube account. As we venture further into the multimedia world, we'll upload videos that we shoot onto Youtube and you'll be able to view them from a link on our website.

We didn't shoot this video, but its content relates to the COURIER, newspapers and accuracy in reporting.

At the November 24 city council meeting, the council received a final report about the August 27 health care debate and recommendations for reform after Claremont police mishandled the situation.

Among the recommendations are a new rental agreement for similar forums taking place on city property which includes information about public meetings and security procedures.

During public comment, the council also heard from Zephyr Tate-Mann, President of the Democratic Club of Claremont. See video below.

Aside from her nice comments about the COURIER, she had some strong words for Daily Bulletin reporter Wes Woods II. The original Bulletin article she refers to is no longer on their website but I do remember reading it and noticing several mistakes.

I certainly don't think Woods was trying to slander Rudy Mann, as Tate-Mann questioned. I assume he just made an error and confused the 2 parties. Reporters are sometimes writing so much information so quickly that mistakes get made. We're human too.

Still, if an error appears in an article, it's the responsibility of the newspaper to correct it. Reporting on the health care reform debate, the COURIER printed some incorrect information about what happened. We followed up with a detailed, corrected article.

It seems the Bulletin already printed a correction on the "confusing" article. See below. Apparently it did not address all the errors in the original story, causing Tate-Mann to lash out at Woods and the Bulletin at the meeting.

I wonder if the Bulletin plans to run a second correction following Tate-Mann's comments. I certainly haven't seen anything in their paper about it.

*** Correction, November 13 ***

A Nov. 8 story about an incident at an Aug. 27 town hall meeting in Claremont was confusing. After Riverside resident Charles Cox shouted, he was escorted from the meeting room. When Claremont resident Rudolph David Mann tried to prevent Cox from re-entering the room, Cox fell and placed Mann under citizen's arrest. Police cited Mann but the District Attorney's Office did not file charges. Mann asked a police officer to arrest Cox at the scene, but the officer declined to do so.

City to help set up new restaurant

At long last, the large empty space in Village West will be filled. Casa Moreno Grill, a Mexican restaurant, will take over the vacant unit just south of the public plaza.

At last night's city council meeting, the council agreed to provide a grant of $150,000 to help the restaurant owners with initial setup costs. The money comes from a job creation and business incentive grant program and will help create 6 new full time jobs and 4 part time jobs.

Restaurant owners will be spending $285,000 for set up and have received a contribution of $94,500 from their landlord.

It hasn't been easy to find a tenant to fill that location, which has sat empty for 2 years. City officials hope the restaurant will bring in more foot traffic to Village West, helping neighboring businesses that have struggled.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

IVHS seeks donations for new adoption center

We received the following press release from the Inland Valley Humane Society. The organization is hoping to raise money for a brand new adoption center and is looking for donors for this project.

The Inland Valley Humane Society & S.P.C.A. is building a brand new adoption center and hopes to raise $1.5 million to meet the needs of this project.

IVHS partnered with the Rancho Cucamonga-based agency, Ignite Design & Advertising to develop a capital campaign that will raise donations for the construction and renovation. The campaign is called "A Different Kind of Homeless", and it highlights the process through which IVHS saves animals' lives and puts them in loving homes. The campaign also communicates how donations for the project will allow the organization to continue helping these animals.

"IVHS has always played a valuable role in the community," said Ignite President Chris Wheeler. "We wanted the impact of that role to resonate within this campaign and move the community members to give back."

IVHS is a full-access animal shelter serving communities all across the Inland Empire. The facility takes in nearly 17,000 sick or injured animals annually, then helps save their lives and find them loving homes.

For more information about the Inland Valley Humane Society & S.P.C.A. and how to donate, please call (909) 623-9777 or visit the IVHS Web site at
MEDIA: To schedule an interview with IVHS Operations Manager Jim Edward, please call (909)623-9777.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Shop Claremont

'Tis the season for holiday shopping. I wrote an article about the business climate in Claremont for today's issue. Some business owners are optimistic, hoping that the worst of the recession is behind us. At the same time, other businesses are closing their doors.

What all Claremont merchants would like for Christmas is for local residents to do holiday shopping in their stores. Dollars spent here generate sales tax for the city and more money for city services. It will also help our stores stay open and keep "For Lease" signs out of the Village.

The city has even posted an online business directory on its website to help you easily find all of your shopping needs. So don't forget to shop Claremont this holiday season.

On a personal note, I have a great gift idea for Christmas. My cat had 4 kittens in October and I'm still trying to find homes for 2 of them. See adorable photo below.

They were born and raised right here in the community and are great with people and other cats. Anyone interested in giving them a good home, feel free to contact me at Happy holidays!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Council meeting tonight

The city council will meet again tonight.

On the agenda is a review of the residential Permit Parking systems on Adirondack Lane and Baughman Avenue.

The council will consider an appeal by residents on Piedmont Mesa Avenue of a Planning Commission decision to deny a variance for a reduction in their front yard setback.

Based on a 4 to 1 vote at the previous council meeting, the council will likely pass an ordinance to extend the Redevelopment Agency's authority to use eminent domain on non-residential properties in the city.

The council will also conduct a public hearing on the increase of some parking fines that were discussed at a previous meeting.

The regular session begins at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers. You can also watch the meetings online by following this link on the city's website.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

H1N1 shot clinic today

There's still time to get a H1N1 shot or nasal stray. A clinic is taking place at Taylor Hall off Indian Hill Boulevard until 5 p.m. Unlike at other clinics throughout the county where people have waited for hours for the vaccination, the line is very short. People are getting in and out in about 10 minutes. The clinic is run by the Los Angeles County Department of Health.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Meeting on economic development

The city council will meet tonight to discuss plans for economic development in the city.

Should the city bring in a Costco, Target or Wal-mart to bring in extra sales tax revenue?
What's a bigger priority - marketing campaigns, renovating existing shopping centers or building news ones?

These are some of issues on the table tonight. With businesses suffering and the city's sales tax revenue dwindling, there will be some important decision to be made.

The meeting will NOT be streamed live on the city's website so those interested in the meeting can attend in person. The meeting begins at 6:15 p.m. in the city council chambers. Click here to see a staff report about the meeting.

Friday, November 13, 2009

How out of touch are city leaders?

There were a couple of eyebrow-raising incidents at Tuesday night's city council meeting that might make one wonder if some of our city leaders are out of touch with what's going on in town.

The first incident happened when the council was voting to relax some of its overbearing signage laws that regulate every little detail about how businesses can advertise their goods and services with signs. For example, banners can only be used to promote a new business or a change of ownership. And window signs can take up no more than 15 percent of window space.

With the holiday shopping season coming up and with businesses struggling to keep their doors open, the Chamber of Commerce pushed for an urgency ordinance to relax some of these restrictions. Being able to advertise and promote their businesses a little more freely might go a long way at this time of year.

The urgency ordinance needed a supermajority vote or it would fail. Luckily for business owners, 4 council members voted in favor. But one did not. That was Larry Schroeder.

"I just don’t want to give up the charm of our Village, the small town charm, for a possible short-term gain,” Schroeder said.

During his campaign for the city council last year, Schroeder's platform was largely based on promoting economic development in the city and fiscal responsibility on the council.

But now it appears "charm" outweighs economic viability for city businesses whose owners are desperate to find new and creative ways to attract more customers. Anyone who has listened to Claremont's business owners knows that signage restricts has been a serious problem. I would think a councilmember interested in economic development would know that by now.

Besides, I think business owners in the Village have some sense of what's appropriate and what isn't. As Councilmember Sam Pedroza noted, "Our businesses know how to do business. I highly trust that businesses know what's good for them and if they're going to be tacky, they're not going to be very successful in this town."

In any case, the ordinance passed. Businesses will have more free reign to use A-frame signs and banners throughout December 31, 2010. In the meantime, city staff will be reviewing Claremont's outdated signage laws in order to bring them into the 21st Century.

The other curious incident happened when the council was discussing the bailout of the Claremont Museum of Art. City Manager Jeff Parker was describing some the key businesses in the Packing House other than the museum.

"[The museum] has been one of the cornerstones [of the Packing House] along with the restaurant that unfortunately had the fire and the other restaurant on the other end, the Mediterranean restaurant, and the Hip Kitty and the children's cooking school there."

Does the city manager honestly not know the names of The Forks, Casablanca and The Young Chef's Academy - businesses he sees as "the cornerstones" of the Packing House? Maybe he was just drawing a blank at the moment. I certainly hope so.

The Forks has been shut down since December 2008 because of an electrical fire. Problems with securing money from their insurance company have delayed the owners from re-opening. But they are hoping to be up and running soon. I'm planning to get a complete story on The Forks and their future plans in an upcoming issue of the Courier.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Museum gets bailout from the city

The Claremont Museum of Art will live to see another day thanks to a $18,879 donation from the city. Actually about 50 mores days. The money will keep the Museum open throughout the end of the year. It will also buy museum officials some time to get more funding to keep the museum going beyond 2009.

Despite a unanimous vote from the city council at last night's meeting, council members were skeptical about handing over a large chunk of money to a non-profit organization at a time when the city has cut about 25 percent of its budget and laid off dozens of staff members.

Council member Peter Yao was frustrated with the idea of giving money to the museum without any assurance that they can sustain themselves past beyond the end of the year.

"We have a lot of needs within the city [like non-profits and struggling businesses]," Councilmember Peter Yao said. "It's really tough to say 'I'm going to help this one but I'm not going to help this one.' ... We're not a federal reserve bank. We can't help all the people out there as much as we'd like to help."

Museum board members promised to do all they can in the next few weeks to secure more donations. Fifty days isn't a lot of time to generate the kind of money they will need to maintain operations. Only time will tell if they can actually pull it off. And the clock is ticking.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Update on the Metrolink crash

Police have released the name of the woman involved in yesterday's Metrolink crash.

Velma Curley, 79, of Claremont died shortly after being struck by the train around 3:15 p.m.

According to Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper, the LA County Coroner notified Ms. Curley's family last night about what happened. An autopsy will take place today.

Still no word on what caused the woman to walk out onto the train tracks. While some have speculated that it was a suicide, police still need to conduct their investigation.

"There's some conflicting statements (from witnesses) and it's still pretty early (in the investigation) for us to tell," Chief Cooper said.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Woman dies in Metrolink crash

A woman's body is covered with yellow tarp after being struck by the Metrolink train

A woman died after being struck by a Metrolink train in what appears to be a suicide. Around 3:30 p.m., the woman got up from her seat on a nearby wall and walked in front of the train, according to bystanders at the scene who had talked to an eye witness.

Shortly after the incident, the eyewitness (pictured below), drove off. She was too distraught to speak.

The incident occurred just east of Indian Hill Boulevard at the Claremont Train Depot.

Claremont Police, LA County Sheriff and Fire Department officials were quickly at the scene to close off the area and maintain traffic control.

It is unknown at this time the age of the woman or further details about her death. I'll try to provide more information as it is released.

Indian Hill Boulevard is blocked off to traffic as law enforcement handles the scene of the Metrolink crash

A distraught eye-witness, seen in the blue vehicle, is comforted by bystanders.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Caenepeel, Stark, Llanusa come out on top

The elections results are in! Congratulations to Jeff Stark and incumbents Mary Caenepeel and Steven Llanusa who took the 3 open seats on the CUSD governing board.

Current Board President Mary Caenepeel earned the most votes in Tuesday's election with a total of 3,023 votes (30.31 percent). Jeff Stark came in a close second place with 2,975 votes(29.83 percent). And Steven Llanusa rounded out the winners with 2,121 votes (21.27 percent).

Jeff Hammill was 266 votes shy of earning a seat on the Governing Board, earning 1,855 votes.

The winners will join current Board Members Beth Bingham and Hilary LaConte to represent the District for the next 4 years.

The COURIER will have full election results on our website tomorrow. Landus Rigbsy, our education reporter who's out covering all the election excitement right now, will have a detailed report on the election in Saturday's edition.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Claremont creepiness

If you don't spook easily on Halloween perhaps these true tales of Claremont creepiness will get your skin crawling.

Twenty years ago - August 11, 1989 to be exact - Randy Steven Kraft was sentenced to death by an Orange County judge.

Kraft is a graduate of Claremont McKenna College back in the day when it was called Claremont Men's College. The convicted serial killer was found guilty of murdering 16 young men and teenagers, most of whom were brutally tortured and sexually abused.

Kraft is suspected in dozens of other murders throughout the 1970s and 1980s and is high on the list of the county's most prolific serial killers. He still awaits his ultimate fate while locked up at San Quentin State Prison. To my knowledge, he's the only Claremont Colleges graduate or former Claremont resident on death row.

Then there's the notorious case of the Rose Petal Murder involving Claremont native Kristin Rossum. Ten years ago on June 5, 1999, Rossum married Greg De Villers at Claremont's quaint Padua Hills Theater.

Greg was found dead the following year with drugs in his system and rose petals scattered over his body. Police initially believed he committed suicide but prosecutors in San Diego, where the couple lived, convinced a jury that Rossum was responsible for his death and staged it to look like a suicide.

In the highly publicized trial, Rossum was found guilty of murdering her husband using a lethal amount of an opiate 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is believed that Rossum, a former San Diego County toxicologist, stole the drug from her workplace. Handed a life sentence without the possibility of parole, Rossum's new home is the Valley State Prison for Women in Chowchilla.

Another chilling tale unfolded 5 years ago tomorrow. On October 31, 2004, Evgeniy Lushevskiy from Philadelphia was visiting a friend at Havey Mudd College and decided to go for a solo hike on Mt. Baldy.

When he didn't return the following day, Claremont police were called to investigate. About a week later, his backpack was found off a hiking trail containing a video camera. Police watched the film, seeing the 19-year-old build a campfire on Halloween night and watching the sunrise the following morning. The tape ended after that.

Despite over 100 search parties, no other traces of Evgeniy have ever been found. His disappearance remains Claremont's only unsolved missing persons case.

Happy Halloween.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

City Council meets tonight

The Claremont City Council will meet tonight. Some of the items up for discussion include:

The revision
of the city's Massage Establishment Ordinance to reflect a new state law. The new law would allow massage therapist with certain educational criteria to be certified and allowed to practice statewide. This will save them time and money in having to get licenses and tests in every city they want to work in.

A report for Police Chief Paul Cooper on the health care reform debate and how the Police Department handled the situation. There is currently an internal investigation underway on the police's response and disciplinary action could be taken.

A review of the Baughman Avenue permit parking system, which has been in place for 6 months. Permit parking was instituted on the residential street due to spillover parking from businesses on Foothill Boulevard.

The council will have a closed session discussion on the City Manager and City Attorney's performance evaluation, which was postponed from the last council meeting. They will also be discussing the purchase of water rights from Golden State Water Company. The water company purchase has been an ongoing issue in Claremont and the excessive price tag associated with the project has deterred past city councils from moving forward.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Death investigation

The Claremont Police Department is investigating a death case involving a new born baby. According to a CPD press release, a 17-year-old mother gave birth on Saturday morning around 2:30 a.m. at her home on the 400 block of S. Indian Hill Blvd. Police say the teenager "did not render immediate medical care that would be associated with a delivery of a child."

The mother was later taken to Pomona Valley Medical Center where she is recovering. The baby was also taken to the hospital where it died. According to the press release, the Los Angeles County Coroner determined that the cause of death was asphyxiation.

The CPD is currently conducting an investigation to determine if the mother is criminally culpable in the infant's death.

No charges over debacle at the health care reform debate

The LA County District Attorney's Office announced last week that it will not file criminal charges against Charles Cox for his role at the August 27 health care reform debate. Citing a California Supreme Court decision on freedom of speech at public meetings, the DA's Office determined that Cox's disruptive actions did not warrant criminal charges.

"It is clear that many in the room were disturbed by the acts of Mr. Cox, but it is unlikely that ... can be proved beyond a reasonable doubt [in court]," according to a charge evaluation worksheet from the DA's Office.

Two weeks ago, the DA's Office declined to file criminal charges against organizer Rudy Mann, who was cited for battery at the debate upon the request of Cox. Cox claimed to Claremont police that he was assaulted by Mann at the meeting.

Tomorrow night, the city council will hear a full report from Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper about the incident and the police's response. Residents have complained over the Police Department's lack of presence at the meeting and perceived unfair treatment by investigating officers.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Village Venture

Saturday will be a big day for Claremont with the annual Village Venture. The Claremont Chamber of Commerce is busy trying to promote the event, which is expected to attract around 20,000 people to Claremont. Here's a video they've posted on Youtube, shot by Susan Brunasso of Classic Elegance. The Village Venture will run on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Be sure to check out today's issue of the COURIER for our special issue about the Village Venture, with information on booths, shuttle services and some nice feature stories.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Staff changes at the COURIER

We are sad to report that COURIER staff photographer Gabriel Fenoy is no longer with the paper. Mr. Fenoy started here as an intern in 2005, and has been on staff for the past 3 years. His photographs gave us all a real sense of the people and places in our community. He will be missed, and we wish him well in his future endeavors.

In the interim, Davis Barber and on occasion myself, will provide the excellent photography coverage you have come to expect. Mr. Barber has worked at the COURIER before, currently owns a photography and video business, and has taught photojournalism courses at several colleges in the area. You have already seen his images for the CHS homecoming coverage.

We will keep you posted on further developments. You can also email me at

Peter Weinberger, publisher

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

City Council meeting tonight

The Claremont city council will be meeting again tonight.

Among the meatier items on the agenda are a proposal for closure and installation of pedestrian signal at the intersection of Arrow Highway and Oakdale Drive and a public hearing on a Claremont Tourism Business Improvement District. The Tourism BID would be assessed for room rentals at local lodging businesses and pooled together for marketing projects involving Claremont's hotels and resorts.

In their closed session meeting, the council will do their annual review of City Manager Jeff Parker and City Attorney Sonia Carvalho. Parker's evaluation always seems to generate some controversy. Last year, the council was criticized for being too generous with Parker's pay raise and bonus despite the city facing millions in a budget shortfall. It will be interesting to see what the council does this time around with his salary adjustment, given that staff layoffs and program cuts earlier this year.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Democratic Club monthly meeting

The Democratic Club of Claremont will have its monthly luncheon this Friday, October 9th beginning at noon. The location is El Ranchero Restaurant, 984 W. Foothill Blvd. in Claremont.

This month's guest speaker will be Professor Mitch Avila, currently the Chair of the Philosophy Department at Cal-State University, Fullerton. Professor Avila is a Claremont resident who specializes in theories of global justice and human rights. His topic will be entitled "Two Kinds of Property" and will focus on regulated markets, distributive tax policies, and personal property. Cost is $10.00.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Claremont Museum of Art on the verge of collapse

The big news in Claremont recently involves the future of the Claremont Museum of Art. It will be a very sad day for the community if the museum is forced to close down. With great education programs, community workshops and rotating exhibitions, the museum has been a real asset to Claremont.

The Claremont Museum of Art has only been open for 2.5 years. That's part of the reason they've had difficulty in getting funding lately. Museum officials said that art grants are often given to more established institutions that have been around for at least 3 to 5 years.

The Museum may only be open for a few more weeks. Staff has been laid off and the Museum store is closed. I'll be following up with another story soon to answer some questions that haven't been addressed.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Police Commission to review health care debate altercation

The Police Commission will hold a special session on Thursday night to examine the police response to the health care reform debate on August 27.

The staff report states that an internal investigation is underway partly because "the actual responses by police personnel to the calls for service generated by the disruptions were not dealt with in an effective and professional manner."

The report states that disciplinary action could be taken against the officer who responded to the scene. The meeting will begin at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers.

In related news, charges were not filed by the District Attorney's Office against Rudy Mann, who was cited by police at the event for battery. The DA is still considering whether to file charges against Charles Cox for disrupting a public meeting.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Steve Lopez this Sunday

Just a reminder that Steve Lopez will be in Claremont for a discussion on his book, The Soloist. The book was chosen by the Friends of the Claremont Library and similar groups in cities like Philadelphia and Cincinnati for the "On the Same Page" program.

The LA Times columnist will be speaking at Little Bridges on Sunday from 2 to 4 .m. After the discussion, Lopez will be available to sign copies of his book and meet members of the audience.

Overheard at the PD

I spend about half an hour in the police station lobby every week to go through their log book for the Police Blotter. Sometimes while sitting there, I overhear some pretty interesting stories.

Yesterday, an elderly woman came in to complain about a parking ticket she'd just received. The woman, who claimed to be a 60-year Claremont resident, got a ticket for parking in a handicapped space in the Village.

"I will never shop in Claremont again!" she said in frustration.

The woman said her daughter was handicapped and knows how important it is for people with disabilities to have access to those spaces. She did admit that the tire of her car was touching the white line, apparently the line between her space and the handicapped spot.

The officer who helped her offered a form to contest the citation. Once filled out and turned in, a watch commander will review the tickets and see if any action should be taken. The officer also offered her a complaint form, where citizens can complain or comment about any interaction with the PD.

The city recently approved price increases to parking violations at last week's city council meeting. Overnight parking tickets will go up from $20 to $35, 2 or 3 hour parking violations will go up from $20 to $35 and handicapped zone violation will $250 to $325.

The increases will take affect on November 25. I'm sure it's little consolation to the woman, who said she's never gotten a parking ticket in Claremont, that she will not have to pay the higher price.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Calaycay's Christmas lights solution goes "down in flames"

Last week, the city council spent about half an hour discussing whether to create a new law that would force all residents of the city to remove any holiday displays within one month after the holiday. That's right, if your Christmas lights, pumpkins and other festive decorations are outside too long, city code enforcement would be knocking on your door.

For a long list of reasons, the council voted down the ordinance. In nicer words, council members called the ordinance pointless, unnecessary and even questioned its constitutionality.

So why is the city council wasting time to consider such a proposal? Hundreds of residents have holiday lights mounted on their houses all year round and it's never been an issue before.

Keep in mind, it's not just a 30-minute discussion at the council meeting. City staff has to research the item, write up a staff report and ordinance and a present its findings to the council.

The Planning Commission also had to consider the item. Like the council, the commission overwhelmingly opposed the ordinance, saying it wasn't in the best interest of the city.

Not to mention the fact that the city council has already discussed this matter before, and chose not to take action. Many of the same issues were brought up at both meetings.

The answer is that the mayor has some power to set the agenda for council meetings, picking and choosing items that interest him/her. In this case, Mayor Corey Calaycay brought this item before the council after no doubt hearing an earful from one unhappy resident.

That unhappy resident is Robert Swartz, who's been in an ongoing dispute with his neighbor Richard Viselli. Each year Viselli transforms his home into an over-the-top Christmas lights show. Nothing would make Swartz happier than having the show completely shut down.

So 2 neighbors can't resolve their differences, one goes and complains to the Mayor and now everyone in the city has to take their Christmas lights down?

Even if this ordinance was approved, little would be resolved between the neighbors. The brunt of the conflict between them is about the actual lights show. Swartz complained at the meeting about Viselli setting up lights several months before the holiday. There's nothing in the ordinance that would regulate either of these things.

"We expect people to take their trash cans in at the end of the day, I figured it wasn't too far removed from what we already have in Claremont that we could at least investigate this as a possible solution to the problem," Calaycay said.

When it was clear the proposal was "going to go down in flames," he added, "To those neighbors who were hoping that this might work, I apologize. And to those who think this is the most stupid idea in the world, I also apologize to you."

The council voted 4 to 1 against the new law.

"I hope this doesn't come back [to the council]," Councilmember Sam Pedroza said. "I hope this is something that you guys figure out and take care of it."

I couldn't agree more.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A mess that could have been avoided

Sparks flew at Tuesday night's city council meeting with a number of residents upset over the Claremont Police Department's handling of the health care reform debate.

Members of the Democratic Club of Claremont rallied around Rudy Mann, who was cited for allegedly assaulting a disruptive participant, Charles Cox.

Andrew Winnick, a DCC member and a Human Services Commissioner, said police should have been aware of a potential threat and called their response a "major failure."

Mann also spoke out at the meeting. He said he was "denied his right to file a complaint against this person who committed this crime against me and against the public."

The police officer who did show up cited Mann for assault but refused to cite Cox for disrupting the meeting. Both men were attempting to make citizen's arrests against each other, but the officer refused to handle Mann's request.

So the officer either showed bias against Mann or simply did not understand how citizen's arrests should be handled. Either case is inexcusable.

Another speaker, Carolyn Gonzalez, President of the Mountain View Republican Club, also addressed the council.
She place the blame on the organizers (the event was sponsored by the Democratic Club of Claremont), calling them "irresponsible" to host the event without any security.

She went on: “[Cox] did stand up. He did shout. He was loud and that is accurate. However what is not being said is that one of the moderators went to him and was poking him in the chest. Physically poking him. He did nothing in response to defend himself. Another gentleman came up, an older man and physically grabbed him. Again, this protester did nothing to defend himself."

I wasn't at the debate, but it seems Cox's whole goal of being there was to draw attention to his pro-life organization, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.

He was annoying enough to get organizers to poke, grab, push or otherwise physically confront him. Then he can file a citizen's arrest and get his name and his organization's name some media attention.

If just one police officer had been there throughout the meeting, perhaps none of this mess would have happened. The officer could have removed Cox from the meeting for being disruptive, and organizers would never have touched him.

Police Chief Paul Cooper argued that the Police Department is not a private security force, and the organizers could have hired police to be there.

But I've been to plenty of protests in Claremont, and there's always a police presence. Why have 3 cops at a rally for peace in Iraq and none at a heated health care debate?

It would have been wise to designate at least one officer to monitor the event. After all, health care debates across the country have erupted into yelling matches and even violence.

The follow-up investigation, the citizen's arrests, the accusations of bias and threats of lawsuits could have all been avoided by sending one officer to the 2-hour meeting.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Update on the Health Care Debate altercation

Claremont's town hall debate on health care reform was marred by a mix-up between one of the debate's organizers and a visitor to the event.

The Claremont Police Department has been investigating the matter and last week filed a report with the District Attorney's office. Police expect to hear back later this week from the DA's Office whether charges will be filed against one or both parties.

Outside of the debate, Charles Cox, 21, of Riverside claims that organizer Rudolph Mann pushed or otherwise assaulted him, causing him to fall to the ground and hurt his knee. (I hope he has health insurance.) See the photo above.

Cox wanted Mann arrested for the assault, while Mann wanted Cox arrested for disturbing the meeting. Nobody was actually arrested, but Mann was cited by police.

Cox is reportedly a member of the radical "Christian, pro-life activism organization" called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.

Click here to watch footage of Cox captured at the Town Hall debate in Alhambra.

It seems Cox, wearing the same sweaty blue shirt he was wearing at Claremont's town hall debate, likes to draw attention to himself and his cause. In the video, a man appears to punch/push Cox for his excessive chanting while speakers are trying to address the crowd.

I'll have an update on the DA Office's decision as soon as information is available.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Alvarez guilty on all counts, loses seat on Water Board

Xavier Alvarez's days of embarrassing Three Valley Municipal Water District are officially over. About an hour ago, the elected official from Pomona was found guilty of 3 felony counts for misappropriation of public funds, insurance fraud and grand theft.

According to Deputy District Attorney Sandi Roth, a conviction of misappropriation of public funds means Alvarez can no longer be a public servant. His days as a Three Valleys Board member are over.

The news will certainly be welcome by his fellow board members, who have publicly and privately blasted him and his behavior.

The conviction came over 2 years after Alvarez signed up his ex-wife for health insurance benefits through Three Valleys, bilking thousands of dollars in tax payers money over the course of several months.

A dejected Alvarez was taken away in handcuffs after the reading of the guilty verdicts. He will remain behind bar until a sentencing hearing on October 1. Alvarez could be put away for up to 5 years in state prison, although the prosecutor said that stiff a sentence was unlikely.

"I think he should think about his misdeeds while he's sitting in jail," she said.

For a complete story, be sure to check out Wednesday's issue of the COURIER.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Xavier Alvarez trial resumes

Stay tuned for some upcoming news on Xavier Alvarez, Pomona's representative to the board of Three Valley Municipal Water District. Alvarez will be spending some more time in court this week.

Jury selection, opening statements and calling of witnesses should begin tomorrow in his trial. He has been charged with felony accounts of insurance fraud, misappropriation of public funds and grand theft.

The District Attorney has also filed a separate charge against him for perjury, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled this week. Prosecutors will try to prove that Alvarez intentionally falsified his W4 forms at Three Valley to claim that he was married. Alvarez has not been married since 2002.

Tri-City Board meeting today

Tri-City Mental Health Center will have a Governing Board meeting today.

Among the agenda items are a resolution determining salaries for staff members, a resolution to approve the 2009-10 budget and a hearing on the final list of delegates for Tri-City's upcoming Prevention and Early Intervention Planning Process.

Councilmember Larry Schroeder is Claremont's elected representative to Tr-City governing board and Chuck Leeb is the citizen representative for Claremont.

The meeting begins at 4:45 p.m. at Tr-City's main office building at 2008 N. Garey Ave. in Pomona.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

School Board Candidates Forum

The lawn signs are beginning to pop up around town and that means another election is heating up in Claremont.

The race has begun for the CUSD Board of Education featuring 4 candidates running for 3 open seats. Candidates include incumbents Steven Llanusa and Mary Caenepeel and challengers Jeff Hammill and Jeff Stark.
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Tomorrow, you can get to know the candidates and the issues at the first candidate's forum hosted by Active Claremont.

The forum will take place Wednesday evening at the Claremont Library beginning at 7 p.m.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Free pass at the Fair

Get into the LA County Fair for free today, and the next 3 Fridays. If you bring 5 cans of Ralphs Private Label canned goods before 6 p.m., you'll get a free pass into the Fair. Not a bad deal!

For more info on what's going on at the Fair and promotions, visit

Panel Discussion on Health Care System

A panel discussion on “Perspectives from Within the Health Care System” is being presented by the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area tomorrow from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hughes Center, 1700 Danbury Rd.

Panelists from sectors involving hospitals, physicians, safety net providers, employer groups and the insurance industry will take part in the panel presentation. The League of Women Voters emphasizes that the event is NOT a debate.

Frederick Lynch, PhD and associate professor at Claremont McKenna College, is the moderator.

Panelists include:

Jaime Garcia, regional vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California
Patrick Wade, MD,retired neurosurgeon, representing the California Medical Association and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons
Alicia Mardini, chief executive officer of East Valley Community Health Center
Barbara Decker, director of benefits, Southern California Center
Michael Lugo, vice president of The Rule Group
Leanne Gassaway, regional director for state affairs, America’s Health Insurance Plans.

RSVP options include voice mail at 909-624-9457, e-mail: or by Fax at 909-624-9839.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peter Yao to head the Independent Cities Association

I'm back from vacation and back to blogging.

Tonight, the Packing House will be packed with officials from across southern California, including mayors from Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach and more. Organized by the Independent Cities Association, the event will see Claremont City Councilmember Peter Yao take over as President of the association for the next year.

The event will allow city leaders from the region, including those who've never been to Claremont, to visit our city and see what it has to offer.

The Independent Cities Association is for cities which have hired staff members to operate their own services, including policing, sanitation and engineering, rather than contracting them out to the county. There are currently 52 member cities.

Mr. Yao, Packing House Developer Jerry Tessier and Claremont Museum of Art Director Bill Moreno are schedule to speak at the event.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Town Hall meeting on health care reform

Expect a lively debate tomorrow night in the Padua Room at the Hughes Center. A panel of local politicians will be debating national health care reform. Panel members include Russ Warner, democratic candidate for congress in the 26th district, Sally Stevens of the League of Women Voters, John Cobb of Progressive Christians Uniting, Sandy Hester of AARP, Mark Ramos of United Food and Commercial Workers and Gar Byrum, speaking for Health Care Co-ops.

Organizers say Congressman David Dreier, who opposes the reforms, was invited. I'm guessing he will be a no-show.

Although I would be interested in attending, I will also be a no-show for the meeting. The COURIER will have another reporter cover the debate.

I will be on vacation for the next 2 weeks. I'm flying today to Vienna and will be traveling around Austria to visit some friends and family. I may post a few photos or tidbits while I'm away but for Claremont news, you'll have to wait till I get back.

Monday, August 24, 2009

City Council back in action

Just an early reminder; the city council will end its summer break next week with a September 1 meeting. Council meetings are normally held on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month but the city manager will be on vacation the week of September 8.

City Manager Jeff Parker mentioned to me that the Mansionization ordinance will be among the topics discussed next Tuesday evening. The meeting will begin at 6:30 p.m.

City council members and all commissioners will also be meeting tomorrow at city hall for a workshop entitled "Brown Act, Conflict of Interest and Parliamentary Procedure training." That meeting will begin at 5 p.m.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Music tonight at the Village Attic

For those looking for some live music tonight be sure to stop by the Village Attic, located on First Street in the Village. The small vintage clothing and hats shop has a large yard area, good for hosting gatherings and performances.

Tonight 2 local acts will perform, including Post Xposure, a cover band playing classic rock. Later in the evening Pitzer College grad Sebastian will be spinning his vinyl records. The event runs from 6 p.m. until about midnight at 211 W. First St.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Comedy at the Kitty

The Hip Kitty in the Packing House is known for great live music acts and steaming bowls of fondue. Now their latest attraction will be comedy acts once a month.

The Hip Kitty Comedy Cabaret Show on the first Sunday of the month begins September 6th at 7:30 p.m. According to their publicist, the shows will consist of established comedians that have been seen on Comedy Central, and most major television networks as well as some up and coming comedians. Sounds like a good time!

Hip Kitty Comedy Cabaret-First Sunday of Every Month
502 W. First St., Claremont, CA 91711
Starting Sunday Sept 6th 2009
7:30 pm- 9:30pm
Tickets $10.00 /$8.00 with Pre-Purchase at

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Bike Claremont

This morning outside of city hall, I ran into Larry Scheetz and Joan Presecan, 2 proud members of the Claremont Senior Bike Group. They'd just completed a ride around Puddingstone Lake in San Dimas.

The group has rides every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. You don't have to be a senior or a great cyclist to join them. You just need a bike!

For beginner riders looking to test the waters, some members of the group do a light ride every Tuesday around the Claremont Colleges.

For more information about the group and their adventures, visit their website here.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Sobriety checkpoint Saturday night

The Claremont Police Department will hold a sobriety checkpoint at an undisclosed location within the city on Saturday. The checkpoint will begin at 6 p.m. and conclude at 2 a.m. Drivers will be stopped long enough to ensure they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Officers will also check for valid driver licenses and ensure drivers are wearing seat belts.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Claremont on the Same Page

Steve Lopez will be in Claremont for a discussion on his book, The Soloist. The book was chosen by the Friends of the Claremont Library and similar groups in cities like Philadelphia and Cincinnati for the "On the Same Page" program.

Mr. Lopez will be speaking at Little Bridges on Sunday, October 4th from 2 to 4 .m. After the discussion, Mr. Lopez will be available to sign copies of his book and meet members of the audience.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Weekend activities

It should be a good night for a visit to the Claremont Village. It's the first Friday event, meaning plenty of music and free entrance to all Claremont museums. Be sure to stop by the Claremont Museum of Art for an up close look at the student art graffiti exhibition beginning at 5 p.m.

Tomorrow, there will be a concert at the Folk Music Center featuring Tom Doughty and Ernest Troost. Doors open at 7 p.m. and tickets cost $10.

Tom Doughty plays a unique style of acoustic lap guitar. He discovered how to return to music after a traffic accident in 1974 left him disabled. Tom has developed an absolutely new and unique technique for playing slide guitar with a sensitive touch full of feeling. His music is admired by many people including slide guitarists, Bob Brozman, Debashish Bhattachyra, and Kevin Brown.

Ernest Troost is an Emmy-winning and multi-Emmy-nominated composer for more than one hundred scores for films and television. In his latest album, All the Boats Are Gonna Rise, he returned to his musical roots by mixing the traditional country blues and ragtime influences of Blind Blake, Tampa Red and Mississippi Fred McDowell with the literate lyrics of contemporary songwriters such as Bob Dylan, Robbie Robertson, and John Hiatt.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Paul Darrow

I was lucky enough to spend Wednesday with Paul Darrow at his home in Laguna Beach. Darrow has a dedicated following among COURIER readers for his popular cartoons. He's a real Claremont man, who studied, taught and raised a family here.

Despite his age (87), he's as sharp as ever and spends most of his days drawing and creating art. To read all about the man behind the cartoons, be sure to pick up a copy of the Saturday, August 8 issue.

Update: You can also find the article by clicking here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The future of Claremont's Commissions

One thing I forgot to mention in my budget report from last Wednesday's paper was the council's discussion on the city commissions. Claremont has 6 commissions that review projects, policies and programs before they get to the city council level.
Together they look at everything under the sun from architectural design of a new development to the Police Department's video surveillance policy, a new sidewalk or traffic light and removing city trees.

The 6 Commissions include Community Services, Police, Human Services, Traffic and Transportation, Planning and Architectural. The commissions usually meet once a month, with exception to the Architectural and Planning Commissions, which meet twice a month.

When commissions meet, at least two city staff members have to be there to make presentations, take minutes and answer questions. Sometimes the meetings run late into the night, eating away at staff time.

At the recent budget workshop, the council talked generally about reigning in spending on the commissions. Without much specifics, they directed staff to come up with ideas to find ways to save with the commissions. This could mean anything from less frequent meetings, combining commissions or even cutting some altogether.

The council will hear a report about the commissions sometime after the city's August break.

On a side note, the council just confirmed several new city commissioners at Tuesday night's meeting. There was one bit of controversy over the appointment of James Manifold to the Architectural Commission.

Manifold is an assistant Professor of Accounting and Vice President of Financial Aid and Business Affairs at Scripps College. He also worked on the citizens committee for the City's revision of the General Plan a couple years back.

But Manifold is technically not a Claremont resident. He lives on the county side of Via Padova. The council confirmed him anyways despite discovering the night before that Manifold does not live in the city.

The confusion came from the actual application for commissions, which does not clearly state that one has to be a Claremont resident to apply. According to City Clerk Lynne Fryman, the application does ask: "How long have you been a resident of the city?" Manifold answered "29 years."

The applications will be changed to say that only Claremont residents can apply for commission spots, Fryman said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

College pays off

The New York Times ran an interesting piece a few days back about which colleges produce the highest wage earners. Claremont's Harvey Mudd College was third on the list, just behind Dartmouth College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

According to data pulled from Payscale, the median mid-career salary (at least 10 years out of school) for Harvey Mudd alumns is $125,000 per year. Further down the list was Claremont McKenna College at $102,000 and Pomona College at $97,500.

Just down the 10 Freeway, Loma Linda University came in first on the list for median starting salaries (5 years or less out of college) at $71,400 per year.

Click here for a full list of schools and salaries.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Budget update

The council met all day on Saturday to address Claremont's budget problems. For the most part, the council went along with the City Manager's recommendations on how to shore up the deficit. At the end of the day, the council approved about $2.5 million in cuts.

The most drastic moves involved city staff and their working hours. Over the next 2 weeks, department heads will be looking at their staff in order to shave off 11 percent of their operating budgets. That means eliminating positions and laying off workers.

Those who keep their jobs are looking at a 5 percent pay cut while working 38 hours a week. City hall and perhaps other city buildings will be closed on Fridays, beginning in September or October.

The council also approved a "Golden Handshake" retirement package but it's only applicable to 6 current employees. The package offers incentives to employees nearing retirement age to walk away from their jobs early. If they accept, the positions will remain empty, saving more money in the future.

City services were cut. Fees on things like sports fields usage and parking tickets will likely go up. And the city will be looking at more ways to generate revenue.

A commonly expressed concern at the meeting was that the budget problems are not over. The state could come back to hit local cities and/or Claremont's tax earnings could keep dwindling. A scary thought considering how deep the latest round of cuts were.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Budget workshop to address $2.69 million shortfall

The city released the staff report for tomorrow's budget meeting. The city council will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to discuss an estimated $2.69 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year 2009-10.

According to a staff report, the city is considering cutting programs, services and reigning in spending by different city departments by up to 15 percent.

The city is also considering moving employees to a 38 hour work week, which would cut their salaries by about 5 percent. The move, if implemented, would save the city about $437,409.

According to the report, the deficit comes from $500,000 in a revenue shortfall due to current economic conditions and a $2.1 million loss of revenue due to state seizures for its budget deficit.

With the changes being proposed, residents will really feel an impact from this budget deficit. To earn more revenue, the city is proposing raising rates on parking tickets by 20 percent, issuing citations to cars parked in the way of street sweepers and increased transit occupancy taxes at hotels.

There may be cuts to programs like DARE, the mobile recreation program, increased fees for sports field usage, children's programs and much more.

The city council will have tough decision to make at tomorrow's meeting. In March, the city already squeezed $2 million out of the budget to close a deficit. Most of that came from the General Fund Reserve and benefits cuts to city staff.

I'll have a full report of the meeting in the Wednesday, July 29 edition of the COURIER.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Affordable housing site review

The Architectural Commission will meet tonight to review the site plan for the affordable housing project on College Avenue.

Here's the staff report. The meeting begin at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers.

The city also conducted a traffic impact analysis for the project. The document, viewable on the city's website, concludes that "there are no significant project impacts, and no mitigation measures are required." Some points worth noting:

"Vehicles would not experience significant delays due to trains crossing College Avenue."
"Pedestrians can safely cross College Avenue to/from Oakmont Elementary School and College Park according to the pedestrian gap surveys."
"... the addition of project traffic would not impact pedestrian connectivity or neighboring streets."
"... the existing traffic signal at College Avenue/Kirkwood Avenue does not need to be relocated to College Avenue/Green Street."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Notes on coyotes

I've gotten some feedback on my recent article on coyote attacks in northeast Claremont. The paper's received 2 "Letters to the Editor" from residents recounting their own experiences with coyote attacks on pets. See below.

As a pet owner myself, I empathize with anyone who's lost a pet in such a horrifying manner. At the same time, I certainly wouldn't promote any vigilante justice against coyotes that I heard during interviews for the story. The foothills is the animal's native habitat and like it or not, coyotes are here to stay.

Some residents are calling on the city to do something about the aggressive coyotes. There are genuine concerns about a baby or child being the next victim.

But what can the city really do? Police and city officials have consistently said they won't remove coyotes unless it is posing an "immediate threat" to humans. Even if a coyote is relocated, they will eventually return to the place they were moved from.

The city certainly cannot kill coyotes. That's illegal.

The best thing is for residents with small pets and children to always be vigilant. This is especially true in summer, when coyotes are attracted to man-made water sources like sprinklers and pools.

Here's some tips from the city's website on living with coyotes. It might not be the answer people are looking for, especially those who've already lost their pets, but it may help prevent more deadly encounters in the future.

I read your article on the aggressive nature of Coyotes with great interest as I have noticed a large increase in my personal coyote sightings in Claremont over the past 28 years. In my own neighborhood I have not seen a cat prowling day or night for 8 or 9 years. But I was foolish enough to think that our family pet was protected behind the stone fencing around my home. I was discussing your article as my family and I left for dinner and upon our return two hours later at dusk we found our beloved dog mortally wounded in our back yard. My children were not only traumatized by the loss of their life long companion but by the carnage left behind. I think it is time that the city step up and recognize this as not an isolated incident but accept the responsibility for the safety and welfare of all it’s residence. I would ask that my fellow neighbors take a moment to tie a white ribbon around their mail box or tree in the front of their homes to let our City Government know how many animals we have lost so it does not take the loss of a human before something is done. – Mourning

After reading the July 15th Courier article about the recent increase in coyote sighting, I took a moment to reflect on the recent demise of our little “snuggle-bear.” It was a sunny Monday morning, just after 9 a.m. The trash collectors were traveling up and down the alley, emptying out trash bins. My daughter resting with a migraine. She cracked open the door from her bedroom to the backyard patio. Her 15 year cat, Snuggle went out to sun in a spot perhaps 4 feet from the open door. Suddenly my daughter said that something rushed by and Snuggle was gone. She called me at work and I rushed home. I search the alley behind our house but to no avail.

What we learned later was that yes indeed, a coyote had taken her. Two blocks away, a woman driving down Yale at 11^th saw a coyote with a cat in its mouth. She beeped and the coyote drop Snuggle. The woman was afraid but nonetheless got out of her car and tried to prevent the coyote from picking her up again. The coyote retreated to a den where she had pups. A neighbor who lives on Indian Hill was walking by and saw what happened. He scooped up Snuggle and told my daughter that he cuddled her as she died in his arms, telling her she would be missed.

Telling this story brings tears to my eyes. Not just because we lost our dear Snuggle-bear but also because of the kindness of strangers for a little black cat.

Yes, coyotes “were here first” but so what. They are no longer kept in check by their natural enemies bears and wolves. They have found it easy to thrive in cities where our pets are much easier pickings than the faster wildlife they are use to hunting.

Coyotes are multiplying and becoming bolder, less afraid of humans and more aggressive. There have been cases in the where small children have been attacked.

There must be a way to have a balanced discussion to develop a management policy.

- Deborah McVeigh

COUIER vs. City softball match update

As some of you may have already heard, the city came out victorious in the softball match held Wednesday at Larkin Park. Despite our best efforts, the COURIER team was outmatched by the younger city team. The final score was 23 to 12.

Regardless of the outcome, everyone had a good time and expressed hope to keep up the tradition. The COURIER team, pictured above, discussed our weaknesses and will be ready to compete in a re-match.

So congratulations to the city for a fine effort. COURIER Publisher Peter Weinberger has been working on a more detailed account of the game. Be sure to look out for the column in tomorrow's paper.

DUI Checkpoint tonight

Just a reminder that the Claremont Police Department will hold a sobriety checkpoint tonight at an undisclosed location. This will be the second one in as many weeks.

The Department gets funding for the programs from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Police will be checking drivers for the use of drugs or alcohol, use of seat belts and valid driver licenses. The checkpoint runs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

COURIER vs City softball match

Today the COURIER will take on the city in a friendly softball match. Everyone is invited to come out and support the COURIER team (or the city, if you are so inclined). The city's team features Councilmember Sam Pedroza and several city staff members.

It should be a fun time for all. You might want to be want to bring a lawn chair and something to drink, it's hot out there! The game is at Larkin Park, 660 N. Mountain Ave., beginning at 6 p.m.

Happy Birthday Mayor

Photo Courtesy of the City Website

The COURIER staff would like to offer warm birthday wishes to Mayor Corey Calaycay, who turns 39 today.

Yesterday, the crowd sang 'Happy Birthday' to him at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast and last night at the city council meeting, he received a special gift from his fellow council members.

"Mayor Calaycay, on behalf of your council, we'd like you to replace your malfunctioned alarm clock with the one we're about to give you," Councilmember Peter Yao said.

Calaycay graciously accepted his gift, had a good chuckle and moved things along at the meeting.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kori Carter wins silver

Kori Carter trains at Claremont High School in February 2009.

This just in from Bressanone, Italy, where Claremont track phenom Kori Carter competed in the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championship. Carter won won the silver medal in the girls’ 100-meter hurdles. Last year, Kori competed in the World Youth Championship in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Read more here.

Here's the news release:

Carter won Team USA's second medal of the competition and in the blink of an eye Bridgette Owens (Oak Park, Mich.) won the third. Carter had a much better start this go around, and hurdled her way to the silver medal in the girls 100m hurdles, finishing in a personal best 13.26. Owens was just behind her, claiming the bronze medal and her second personal best of the day in 13.39.

Team USA finished in the top spot at the World Youth Championship, collecting 16 medals including six gold medals, one short of tying their record of seven gold medals set in 2007. USA and Kenya share the distinction of earning the most gold medals at the event.
USA Track & Field fielded some of the best athletes aged 16 and 17 through December 31, 2009 (born in 1992 or 1993) for the World Youth Team USA at the 6th IAAF World Youth Championship that was held July 8 to 12.

For more information on the 6th IAAF World Youth Championship including complete results, click here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

DUI Checkpoint this Saturday

The Claremont Police Department will conduct a sobriety checkpoint at an undisclosed location in town. The checkpoint will be held this Saturday beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 2 a.m.

All drivers passing through the checkpoint will be stopped long enough to determine that the drivers are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. All drivers will be check to ensure they are wearing their seat belts and have valid driver licenses.

Let's hope nothing goes haywire this time around, unlike what happened back at a May 22 DUI checkpoint ...

A 53-year-old North Hollywood resident nearly killed himself at a police checkpoint located at the intersection of Indian Hill Boulevard-Dartmouth Avenue.

At approximately 8:05 p.m., the man was diverted into a 2nd lane when police discovered he was driving on a suspended license and had a warrant out for his arrest. While in the vehicle, the 53-year-old pulled out a knife and started slashing his throat, causing multiple lacerations in his neck.

Officers attempted to get the man to stop but he refused. Police then used a taser on the man to get the knife away.

Paramedics arrived shortly after police seized the knife and transferred the man to Pomona Valley Hospital, where he was diagnosed in serious condition due to the loss of blood. After being treated and undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, the man was later released.

Police later issued the man a citation for the warrant and his suspended driver’s license.

COURIER recognized by the National Newspaper Association

The Claremont COURIER recently found out that we've earned a few awards from the National Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper contest.

COURIER photographer Gabriel Fenoy won first place for Best Feature Photo, in the category Non-daily Division, circulation 4,500 - 5,999. The photo, seen above, was taken at Claremont Place's Easter egg hunt.

Fenoy and Managing Editor Kathryn Dunn also took first prize for Best Use of Photographs, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 6,000, for page design and photos in the issues dated March 5 and March 8 2008.

Columnist Mellissa Martinez won 2nd place in the category Best Humorous Column, Non-daily Division, circulation 5,000 - 7,999. You can read her "Lex in the City" article, entitled Money Talks, by clicking here.

Finally, obituaries and features writer Brenda Bolinger took 3rd place in the category Best Obituary, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 6,000. You can read the article here.

Congratulations to a hard-working team for producing quality work and making the COURIER a great paper.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Claremont filmmaker wins again

Claremont Jared Cicon, a former wedding photographer turned "do it yourself" filmmaker and producer, nabbed the top prize of $10,000 for his homemade advertisement for Skinit Inc.

Cicon has won or been a finalist for similar contests in the past for companies like Heinz, Klondike Bar and Fanta.

Congratulations Jared! Here's a link to watch the winning video.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 4th notes

It was a great fourth of July once again in Claremont. COURIER photographer Gabriel Fenoy was out and about from 8 a.m. to the last firework to capture all the great moments.

Here's a few of his photos that didn't make it into tomorrow's paper. You can also view a photo gallery of his best shots tomorrow on our website.

I ran in the Claremont Freedom 5000 race, as did my colleague Brenda Bolinger. I put up a decent time of 23.17 that I'm pretty proud of and wrote a column about the run for tomorrow's paper. Click here for the race results.

For some it was a very long day. City staff and countless volunteers worked hard to make July 4th a great success. We thank them for all their efforts.

But one man was noticeably missing for much of the day's activities. Mayor Corey Calaycay, pictured below, pulled a no-show for the Flag Raising and Opening Ceremonies at 10 a.m. and was still absent for his 11 a.m. address at the Speaker's Corner.

By 11:30 a.m., city staff was getting seriously worried about his safety. Police, fire fighters and assistant city manager Tony Ramos were sent to Calaycay's house to make sure he was okay.

They found him, alive and well, if not a bit sleepy-eyed. The mayor had simply overslept. He eventually made his way down to Memorial Park to join in the fun and apologized for his earlier absence.

"It's never a nice thing to have to begin a speech with an apology but I must do that," he said at the Speaker's Corner. "It's tradition for the mayor to open the speaker's corner and I was truly looking forward to that and I'm embarrassed to say I overslept this morning."

Mayor Corey Calaycay and Mayor Pro Tem Linda Elderkin wave to the crowd at the 4th of July parade.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Home decorating contest winners

Congrats to Sharon (left) and Sheila (right) Murphy, winners of this year's 4th of July home decorating contest. The sisters recreated a beach scene on their driveway and a rockin' hoppin' park on their front lawn. Be sure to stop by and check out their handiwork at 1311 Cedarview Drive.

Second place winners are the McClosky family at 1828 Santa Rosa Court and third place went to the Kerners at 1731 North Towne Avenue.